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Making sure your Bahamas relief donations do the most good

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While Hurricane Dorian spared Northeast Florida from catastrophic damage, damage to the islands of the Northern Bahamas was catastrophic.

“A lot more dead bodies, deceased people than maybe we hear or see on the news, total devastation," Bold City Church Pastor Jason Masters said.

Masters has friends in the islands hit hardest. 

"They were led to believe the storm was going to miss them for the most part, so they kind of put their guard down a little bit," Masters said.

Bold City Church is just one of many churches, restaurants and businesses collecting supplies to send to the Bahamas. While their intentions may be good, the president of the Better Business Bureau, Tom Stephens, urged people to be wary before they donate. 

"The people who just start something up, they don’t have necessarily a way to get the money to someone and they don’t have a plan on how to use that money. Good intentions, just not well thought-out," Stephens said.

Stephens recommends asking the organizer what their plan is before making a donation. The Better Business Bureau said if an organization cannot give specific logistics, it might be better to donate elsewhere. 

"For the next couple days, we want to collect supplies. There's a group out of Jacksonville Beach area in St. Augustine that has small planes and has clearance to fly to the Bahamas," Masters said. "I believe they are going to leave on Saturday and then they are going to shuttle supplies to the islands to help people."

IMAGES: Northern Bahamas islands ravaged by Dorian

Local collections for Bahamas relief

BOLD CITY CHURCH - JACKSONVILLE 
Circle of Love HQ (13519 N. Main Street) on Thursday and Friday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday 8-11 a.m. Website lists items needed, details

WICKED BARLEY BREWING COMPANY - JACKSONVILLE 
Collecting supplies through Saturday at 4100 Baymeadows Road. Will extend if possible. Supplies will be taken to the islands once they receive the all clear. 

WINDWARD MARINA GROUP - ST. AUGUSTINE 
Taking donations of marine engines -- be it outboard, inboard, gas or diesel -- solar panels, chargers, batteries and any miscellaneous marine hardware in working order. Collecting goods at St. Augustine Marine Center, 404 Riberia Street.

FRIED CHICKEN KITCHEN FOOD TRUCK - ST. AUGUSTINE 
Collecting Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at 1510 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd. Free meals for first responders as a thank you to them. Just need to stop by the food truck

Relief to Bahamas; Upchurch family coordinating (through a local charter company) a collection of donations for Bahamas. “Anyone who brings by supply donations to the truck Friday through Sunday will get a free meal, and Fried Kitchen Chicken will get the supplies to the charter company, who will fly them directly into Abaco.”

Bleu Chocolat Café - Jacksonville 
Hosting a dinner Monday night to raise funds for those impacted by the hurricane. More details

For people wanting to donate supplies for the Bahamas in the Jacksonville and Daytona area, drop off your supplies at these Florida Paints locations: 

  • Jacksonville South - Store 106: 904-385-9242 | 144 Industrial Drive, Orange Park, FL 32073
  • Jacksonville East - Store 110: 904-634-7983 | 3207 Cortez Road, Jacksonville, FL 32246 
  • Daytona - Store 108: 386-256-3915 | 3340 S. Ridgewood Ave., Port Orange, FL 32129

4 tips to avoid Hurricane Dorian donation scams

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis provided this advice:

  • The More Information the Better. Stay away from donation campaigns that don’t provide adequate information about the relief the money will provide.
  • Check Social Media & Research. If a group or individual is unfamiliar to you, research and research again. Scam artists will often times create a social media page right before they launch the donation campaign, so check to see how long they have been active. Even check the image they used for their profile to see if it’s a stock image, which is a good indication the campaign is a scam. Even if the name of the group or individual sounds familiar, always do your homework.
  • Keep Records. Be sure to note exactly how much you donated, the name of the individual or group launching the donation campaign and any additional information that has been supplied. Even consider taking a screenshot of the web page.
  • Don’t Feel Pressured. Those who are running online scams typically try to pressure you to donate IMMEDIATELY.

These tips before donating

From Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody:

  • Never give credit card numbers, gift card account numbers or bank account information to a caller on the phone or in response to an unsolicited email.
  • Before donating over the phone or online, take steps to verify the charity or fundraising campaign.
  • Avoid solicitors that use high-pressure tactics.
  • Watch for charities with similar-sounding names. It is not unusual for scammers to choose names that sound like the names of legitimate, widely-known charities
  • Look up charity on CharityNavigator.org before giving
  • Research and review the organization carefully to understand how much of the donation will actually go toward the work of the charity as opposed to administrative expenses and overhead
  • Check with the Internal Revenue Service to see if the tax-exempt organization filed an annual return or notice with the IRS. The IRS requires automatic revocation of a charity’s tax-exempt status if it fails to file a return for three consecutive years. Publication of an organization’s name on the Auto-Revocation List helps potential donors determine the status of a charity. To learn more, go to IRS.gov and search the Charities and Non-Profits topics.

Tips to help donors spot and avoid crowdsourcing charity scams

Also from Attorney General Moody:

  • Research the webpage creator’s background and reviews before donating.
  • Know that there are many different crowdsourcing platforms, each with different terms of use and fraud investigation practices.
  • Check to see if the platform offers protections to donors should a campaign be fraudulent.
  • Determine what percentage of any funds raised will go to the charity and what percentage goes to the platform.
  • Search to see if there are any identical or extremely similar campaigns.

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